My daughter, who is four, has a very vivid imagination. She loves playing Barbies, babies, kitchen, and crafting. After a long day of work, sometimes I find it hard to work on her academics and get in playtime. So, recently we've been playing a game that encompasses writing, reading, letter and word recognition, addition, recall, counting money, and imagination. I know, you are thinking, "What's this magical game?" It's none other than... restaurant.

I'll be honest, I saw the concept in a Melissa and Doug toy set over Christmas and though I absolutely love Melissa and Doug products, I actually opted for a different toy they offered. But, it kind of dawned on me this past week when she wanted to play kitchen for the millionth time that we needed to turn it up a notch.

So, here's what we used to play:

  • An apron
  • A notepad
  • A pencil
  • Play money - use $1, $5, $20 if you can
  • Play food
  • Play silverware, cups, plates
  • Play kitchen

First she chose 10 food items and laid them out. Let's see, we had eggs, toast, carrots, chicken... you get the idea. Then we dressed her up in her apron with money in one pocket and pad and pencil in the other. (I got to sit on the couch and use the coffee table as my dining area - score!)

Then she came over and "took my order." I picked a drink and three items. I helped her write out everything I wanted her to make. We also wrote a price next to each item. We started off with each item being $1. Later on, I'm sure we'll make up a menu with various prices attached but for now, we'll keep it simple. Three food items, plus a drink wil be four. I'll give her a $5 and get $1 back. Boom.

Her next job was to go make the food and make up the plates and serve it. After I ate my food, we added up the bill and I paid her.

She loved the game and if you have a young kiddo, they might too! And my guess is that she will retain the skills she learned far better than if we'd sat down and hammered out letters and sight words over and over.

Want to buy the Melissa and Doug kit? Click here!